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The Hindu Revivalist Movement - The path ahead

The Ram Mandir verdict was pronounced by the Supreme Court of India yesterday. The judgement was decisive as it clearly asked the state to handover the erstwhile disputed site to the Hindus for the building of a Ram Mandir and the Muslims to be given a 5 acre land for the construction of a Masjid if they need one.

Both sides seem to have accepted the judgement so far. Of course, neither side could do much in any case. The judgement was unanimous, all five judges pronounced the verdict in favor of the Ram Mandir and hence the chance of a review petition by any party was unlikely to be entertained by the Court. Besides, the Hindus got what they wanted (mostly) as they have restored ownership to the 2.77 acres of land where the previous Mandir was supposed to have been standing.

Wat Chaiwatthanaram, Ayutthaya, Thailand
I will not go into archaeological evidence again to justify the verdict. The court has done a decent job in noting the reports that were provided to it by the ASI proving the existence of the pre Islamic Mandir on the same site. I am more interested in the aftermath and the implications that this judgement may have on the future course of events regarding policy and Hindu Muslim relations.

Influence on future policy and matters of State

First, let us come to the matter of policy. I as a Hindu am genuinely greateful for the verdict and am happy that the Ram Mandir is going to be built in the Ram Janmabhoomi, Ayodhya. Even though I don't feel the Supreme Court is best positioned to provide a judgement on this particular matter. Under the present circumstances it is hard to argue for a more competent institution that can provide a legal basis for the renewed ownership of the land by the Hindus. In that case, this is a positive development.

The biggest winners are obviously the kar sevaks (who often shed their lives in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement) and the millions of Hindus who prayed with baited breath for a judgement in their favor. The Muslims who take their religion seriously are equally will undoubtedly be very dejected and many will question their decision to stay behind in India. The secular and left liberal folks will be the most dejected lot. Their outright calls for the evidence being tainted - have been all been rejected in light of the evidence that refutes such arguments. Certainly, one can't expect them to suddenly wind up and relegate themselves to the dustbin of history. But their relevance will henceforth be significantly curtailed. In terms of Government policy as well, a change may very well come now - that of acknowledgement of the fact that there are several monuments that were built on the top of another by force.  A closer scrutiny of such monuments will most likely begin soon.

The influence on Hindus and Muslims

The greatest apprehension for the Muslim community lies in the fact that this, they fear, is only the beginning of a range of demands that the Hindus have. The slogans of the yesteryears - 'Ayodhya to bas jhanki hain, Kashi Mathura abhi baaki hain' meaning Ayodhya is only a trailer/beginning, Kashi and Mathura are still left. The point is unmistakable. The Hindus (led by the VHP, Sangh whatever you call it) claim to recover the ownership of other buildings that were usurped by the Muslims during the Mughal period. Of these, in Mathura lies the Shahi Idgah built by Alamgir (Aurangzeb) after demolishing the Krishna Janmabhoomi. The other place of contention is the Gyanvapi Masjid built after desecrating the Gyanvapi Mandir in Kashi.

Now herein lies the problem. There are hundreds or even thousands of other temples and stupas that have either been entirely destroyed or have mosques built on top of them. It is a matter of good fortune that many of these places have been taken over by the ASI, preventing the regular Islamic worship in the places. But the fact remains that the places are still under Islamic occupation. And even though the politicians may (and probably will) raise the bogey of these temples to fetch votes - the individual Hindu or Muslim may hold these temples and masjids far closer to their hearts.

For the Hindus, this becomes trickier. With growing education, they have come to know about a great of information that was denied to him. The same applies to the Muslim too. But while the tales of destruction of temples may be traumatic for the Hindus, the Muslims have a very different take on this matter. Their simple claim is that of adverse possession. In simple terms, Muslims believe that in the medieval times, Muslim rulers defeated hindu kings in battle and thereby took possession of the lands along with whatever stood on top of it. Therefore destruction of temples, though deplorable, was a matter of the medieval state. Eventually, the Muslim community has grown attached to it and for them it has become a matter of faith as much as it is for the Hindus. Of course, the perversion of logic is clear here as the location of a place like Krishna or Ram Janmabhoomi is of much much greater significance to the Hindus when compared to Muslims. Especially since Islam itself does not give much importance to any place as a holy place barring the ones in Arabia. But such calls have repeatedly fallen on deaf ears and the standard Muslim response to requests for return of Hindu holy sites under Muslim occupation has been straight forward - silence or violence.

There is also a genuine fear among the Muslim leadership. Any honest Muslim knows the motivation for the iconoclasm of the Islamic leaders and kings in the past. The example of the Prophet regarding the destruction of Kaaba idols and conversion of the same into an Islamic place of pilgrimage is recorded in primary Islamic sources itself. As a result, the fear is this - if Hindus ask for the return of all the places under Islamic occupation in India, there will be very few places of Islamic history left to be considered entirely Muslim as far as heritage is concerned. This, they legitimately fear, may lead to the severe weakening of Islam and their own influence over their population and by continuation - their power.

What is likely to happen?

I will leave aside political parties. Their fickle minded vote winning strategies will continue changing, regardless of the party in power or opposition. But the dynamics of Hindus and Muslims have been altered forever. Hindus are no longer the all tolerant (such illusion was broken in 1992 though)_mish mash that Gandhi symbolised. The weakness is no longer visible in a significant portion of the Hindu discourse. The Muslim side on the other side is beginning to fragment - with one side accepting the injustice meted out to Hindus in previous generations hoping that the same acknowledgement will grant them equal status as citizens (which many Muslims believe is not granted to them now). The other and more significant majority (as far as making the most noise is concerned) is turning more anti Hindu in response thereby increasing the communal gaps that were already existing. This will most likely lead to a hardening of position in both the Hindu and Muslim camps, thereby culminating in a low level civil war. How the State, the Economoy and the civil society responds to this event (if it comes) remains to be seen. The lack of pragmatism of the Muslim leadership will precipitate a greater crisis, aided by an increasingly intransigent Hindu leadership. Eventually a Muslim exodus or a partition along the lines of 1947 does not seem unlikely.

A civilized solution would probably be to simply accept the fact that older buildings were usurped by Islamic rulers and that the idea of Islam itself is to be blamed for the same instead of the people of this generation. Education should play the biggest role. First hand accounts should be taught in schools. The Muslims have to understand and accept the role of Islam in these acts of iconoclasm. The Hindus will have to appreciate the fact the Muslims today are not to be blamed for the ill deeds of the Muslim sultans then. Eventually, the hope should be such that the Muslims themselves should come to see the mistake of their leadership and hand over the places of worship back to the Hindus/Jains/Buddhists etc. Perhaps such a crisis of faith may even lead to something similar to the fall of the Wall - wherein their belief in Islam as an ideology may be shaken beyond redemption. Such an outcome is what one may hope for if the blood of innocents are to be spared, perhaps in the next fifty years or so. One can only hope.


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